Panthers show mental strength
Besides returning three of its top five players from last season when it was one of the best teams in central Ohio, the Pickerington High School North girls golf team could have an advantage over its opposition this season in terms of mentality.
The Panthers, according to coach Kitty McGrievy, have remained focused on sticking together through fierce intra-squad competition.
During tryouts, nine players averaged between the low 80s and the low 90s for 18 holes, which made it difficult for McGrievy to determine how the varsity A and B teams would be comprised.
"Every one of these nine girls felt they had legitimate shots of (finishing among the top five)," McGrievy said. "Even though it was pretty tense, the girls always pulled for each other."
Senior Kristin Oliphant is the top returnee after shooting an 83 in the Division I district tournament. Also back after competing in the postseason a year ago are senior Shayleigh Holbrook and junior Rachel Moore.
Junior Krista Moore, who is not related to Rachel Moore, and freshman Lauryn Oliphant also are expected to be key contributors, and senior Kellie Feehan, junior Kyndal Smith, sophomore Lavonca Davis and freshman Anne Potts are others looking to contribute.
North, which has won five league titles over the past seven years, shot a 334 in the first round of the OCC-Ohio Division tournament Aug. 7 at Westchester to finish ahead of Canal Winchester (366), Thomas Worthington (375), Upper Arlington (375), Gahanna (387), Hilliard Davidson (403) and Lancaster (512). Last season, the Panthers went 28-0 in the league, with UA (24-4) placing second.
North won its fifth Division I sectional title a year ago, shooting a 341 at The Links of Groveport, and placed third (335) at district at Cooks Creek behind state-qualifiers Dublin Coffman (314, won on fifth-player tiebreaker) and Dublin Jerome (314).
Gabby Milam, who was second in the OCC-Ohio last year in stroke average (79.3), and Alissa Davis, who averaged 81.75 in the league tournament, were the biggest losses to graduation.
North opened Aug. 6 by placing eighth (386) in the 12-team Lady Rocks Invitational at Little Turtle behind champion and host Coffman (309) and finished seventh (336) in the 17-team Worthington Kilbourne Invitational on Aug. 8 at Glenross behind champion Jerome (283).
"(We're) pretty solid," McGrievy said. "We have more kids working very hard throughout the spring and summer and that's why (all of our scores) are so close. It's exciting to have two freshmen in the mix with some juniors and seniors."
Tigers working hard to improve
First-year Central coach Mary Ann Wharton is used to starting a program from the ground level.
When she lived in Smithtown, N.Y., about two decades ago, she helped to get several sports programs, including a girls golf team, up and running.
Her newest venture is with the Tigers, who went 2-22 in the OCC-Cardinal a year ago to place last of seven teams behind champion Jerome (24-0) but return nearly all of their key players.
Wharton took over for Rebecca Van Horn, who headed the program for one season.
"I started in January, so we did a lot of offseason training," Wharton said. "We've got seven coming back of the 11 who played last year in the program. In general, the kids are working hard."
Central opened Aug. 7 by shooting a 403 in the first round of the OCC-Cardinal tournament at The Links at Groveport to place sixth behind Jerome (305), Olentangy Liberty (370), Olentangy (389), Dublin Scioto (392) and New Albany (401) and ahead of Olentangy Orange (432).
The Tigers, who finished 13th in the Kilbourne Invitational on Aug. 8, are expected to be led by senior Christy Conley and juniors Emma Duncan and Morgan Terbovich, each of whom competed in the Division I sectional last year at Oakhaven. Central finished eighth (443) at sectional behind champion Jerome (323), with Duncan leading the Tigers with a 97.
Also back after competing in the postseason a year ago is sophomore Caitlin Tarr.
Rounding out the team are juniors McKenzi Price and Mackenzie Meister and sophomore Kiera Harper.
According to Wharton, Duncan and Conley both competed in American Junior Golf Association events during the offseason.
"Even with the girls that are new, everyone gets along and there hasn't been any drama," Wharton said. "It's nice having the older ones bring the younger ones beneath their wings. It's just a good group of girls (who) treat each other with respect.
"I gave them homework of coming up with three personal goals. Most of them would like to shoot better scores and a lot of them want to make sure they have a cohesive bond."